Genocide, environmental pollution, and sperm speed

The Supreme Court last week began hearing the petitions against the RH law. First up was newspaper columnist Francisco Tatad who delivered the opening statement on behalf of all the 13 anti-RH petitions. He set the tone for the day when he argued that the RH law amounted to legislated genocide.

Tatad was followed by Maria Concepcion Noche, counsel for the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, who asked the Court to declare the RH law unconstitutional because it goes against Art. II sec 12 of the Constitution—the provision that mandates the State to give equal protection to a mother and her unborn child.

Noche claimed all hormonal contraceptives are abortifacient which is bad for the unborn at the same time also bad for the mother because they have harmful side effects. She tried to kill two birds with one pill. Unfortunately that was easier said than done and so anti-RH justices had to rush to her rescue.

After helping Noche argue for the protection of the unborn, Associate Justice Teresita de Castro (AJTC) moved to the protection of the mother, on the claim that hormonal contraceptives had harmful side effects.

AJTC: So would you say pills should not be distributed without close medical supervision? … I ask this question because whenever I go to the grocery to buy chicken and livestock I always look at the notice there “organically raised” because I worry of eating something which has been raised through chemicals or unnatural natural foods. And I also think about doctors advising us not to take any substance or medicines without medical supervision so I’d like to find out if the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives may harm the health of our women.

MCN : Definitely. Definitely, Your Honor. And that’s one of the main reasons why we are objecting to the RH law, Your Honor.

AJTC: We are protecting the environment from pollution, would you say that chemicals being ingested by women can also cause pollution of the human body because you are altering the natural…

MCN: Of course, Your Honor. You alter the natural rhythm and harmony within the woman’s body and if we take to heart the ruling of the Honorable Court in Oposa vs DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) then that’s pollution of the environment inside the woman, Your Honor, destroying the natural rhythm and harmony within the woman’s body, Your Honor.

Where was Noche going?

If we extend her argument—that we should take to heart Oposa vs DENR because hormonal contraceptives pollute the environment inside the woman—then hormonal contraceptives will require not only FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval but also an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the DENR.

Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin (AJLB) was next to interpellate Noche.

AJLB: I wanted to be assured we understood each other all the while you have been talking about abortifacients and you made it very clear, to me at least, an abortifacient as defined by the law refers only to a zygote, to prevent that zygote from being implanted in the mother’s uterus..

MCN: …or destroying the zygote…

AJLB: …yes, yes…

MCN : …yes…

AJLB: …before the union of sperm and egg, do you factor that at all in your arguments?

MCN: Before the union of the egg and the sperm there is no life yet…

AJLB: …there is no life to be protected under sec.12 …so you have no objection to condoms?

MCN: Ahm not under sec 12…

AJLB: Okay now we talk about conception—that is your name by the way …

MCN: Yes, Your Honor

AJLB: …as the union of sperm and egg

MCN: Yes, Your Honor.

AJLB: Have we established at all in science at least how fast does the sperm travel to that union after the coitus?

MCN: I understand, Your Honor, that the sperm only lives for one day…

AJLB: No. I was asking about the speed

MCN: I’m not so sure, Your Honor

AJLB: You are not so sure, alright since it is not possible at all to establish the physical time when the union between sperm and egg happens or occurs…Have you surmised at all, surmised how long probably after the coitus did that union happen…is it in seconds or moments or a day or two?

MCN: I think a day or two, Your Honor

AJLB: A day or two and by then the sperm shall have died along the way. Hindi ba you said that the sperm can survive for only 24 hours?

Thank God for my father’s speedy little swimmers. It took them less than 24 hours to reach my mother’s egg. You should thank Him too.

Days after his appearance before the Court, Francisco Tatad wrote, “It was quite an experience.” It sure was.

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

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